9/11/1984 – ‘In Chicago for opening of The Muppet Show on Tour- LIVE.’

With the success of the Sesame Street Live arena shows, it made sense for Jim to pursue a similar production for the stars of his internationally popular Muppet Show. Working with the VEE Corporation in Minneapolis, the Henson team devised two 90 minute extravaganzas, the first in 1984 and the second to tour during the 1985/1986 season. With Michael Frith’s art direction on the Henson side and Caroly Wilcox’s supervision of character builds, special full-body versions of The Muppet Show characters were built, sets were designed and marketing materials created. The scripts loosely strung together various production numbers featuring comic scenes and more sincere performances like Kermit singing “The Rainbow Connection.” For the first version, the audio was prerecorded in Toronto in June 1984 to be ready for the September premiere.

The Muppet Show Live, Second Edition offered an expanded cast and featured a number with the Muppet Babies who would go on to have their own arena show in 1986. It was subtitled “A Better Show for A Better America” (Sam Eagle was seriously involved!) with a finale called “A Salute to America.” The Toronto Globe and Mail gave a rave review, despite calling the closing number “slightly inappropriate” but going on to say that the Muppets got, “…around the problem of bruising Canadians’ national pride by having most of the cast carry Canadian flags around the stage while Miss Piggy rises to heights dressed as the Statue of Liberty.” The reviewer, Alan Niester, further explained, “Otherwise, the package is virtually perfect – wildly colorful, typically imaginative and just plain fun.”

Learn more about Muppet arena shows.

Michael Frith’s idea for a number with the Flying Zucchini Brothers in The Muppet Show Live, 1984.

Plans for how The Muppet Show characters would be translated into full body costumes for the arena show, with notes by Caroly Wilcox, 1984.

Plans for how The Muppet Show characters would be translated into full body costumes for the arena show, with notes by Caroly Wilcox, 1984.

The Henson team as pictured in The Muppet Show Live, Second Edition program, 1985.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

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